The Chinese communist regime has dug into its Maoist past for two new social and propaganda initiatives, in what analysts say show signs of deepening economic problems.
In a recently announced social policy, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wants to see more “talents” move to poor rural areas, reminiscent of a campaign during the Cultural Revolution that forced millions of urban young people to work in the fields with farmers to “re-educate” themselves.
Meanwhile, state-run media has been publishing propaganda harking back to the Long March—a military retreat undertaken by the Red Army in the 1930s romanticized by the CCP.
‘Down to the Countryside’
On June 19, the General Office of the CCP’s Central Committee announced a policy encouraging “talents” to move to the poor rural areas, according to a notice published by state-run media Xinhua.
The announcement also asked that local governments “carefully follow through based on reality,” adding that the policy is consistent with the principle that the “Party guides the flow of talents.”
Critics said that the move was a throwback to the Cultural Revolution decades ago, during which roughly 17 million Chinese “bourgeois” youths—about 10 percent of China’s urban population—were sent down to the countryside under the directive of then communist leader Mao Zedong, to “reeducate” themselves by working in the fields with farmers.
The June 19 announcement was the CCP’s second attempt in the last few months to migrate labor forces from urban centers to revitalize rural areas.
Earlier in April, the Chinese Communist Youth League, an organization for cadre hopefuls, announced a three-year plan to arrange at least 10 million Chinese college graduates to be volunteers “to build the culture, technology, and health care fields in the countryside before 2022.”
The stated goal of the plan, according to the league, was to promote the development of villages and eliminate poverty.
The plan has been met with backlash from Chinese netizens, with some parents criticizing it as being backward and calling for the officials’ children to take the lead.
‘Long March’ Movement
Over the past few weeks, many articles have popped up on online Chinese media portals, with reporters recounting their experiences traversing the path of the Long March, a massive retreat of CCP armed forces from its southern territory in the 1930s that has since been portrayed as a heroic journey.
Since June 11, some 500 state media reporters have joined the journey overseen by the CCP’s Publicity Department, the governmental agency in charge of propaganda dissemination, as the Party marks its 70th year of authoritarian rule.
The reports touted the event as a “special Party education” course, describing the experience as a pilgrimage that reminded reporters of the tenacity of the communist soldiers.
Tang Jingyuan, U.S.-based political commentator, told the Chinese edition of The Epoch Times that the campaign reveals that cracks are starting to appear in the CCP’s grip on power.
“From top to bottom in the CCP, there is a shared sense that the Party is reaching its doom, so hyping up the campaign to ‘revisit Long March’ is simply an attempt to find some self-assurance—lift the spirits within the Party and among the masses,” Tang said.
Analysts said the two seemingly disparate incidents could both also be signs that the regime is trying to cope with a struggling economy, which has suffered further losses from the trade war with the United States.
China’s monthly industrial output growth in May fell to a 17-year low, while retail sales have also been sluggish.
According to Tang, the trade dispute with the United States, along with the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, has put the Chinese regime in hot water, and its most pressing concern is how to keep sustain its economy.
“If the U.S. really takes action to cut off the blood supply [trade], the CCP will not be able to hold much longer,” he said.
“Once the economy goes down, the CCP will lose its legitimacy, and it knows this point well itself, so it will try with all its might to cover up the true picture of the sluggish economy however much falsehood it takes.”
Analysts said the large migration of urban educated youths as announced in April could be a temporary solution for the Chinese regime to balance the growing unemployment in the urban areas with the lack of labor in the countryside.
The rising unemployment rate has been a sensitive issue for the regime as it is seen as an indicator of social instability.
China will see a record 8.34 million new college graduates this year, bringing more stress to an already troubled job market, according to a May report by state-run media Xinhua. According to Voice of America, a recent survey showed that around half of these graduates have trouble finding a job, given that the actual employment rate sits at about 52 percent.
“There’s no solution to unemployment—even though some youth rely on parents [for financial support], while some choose to continue pursuing higher education,” Canada-based Chinese political commentator Wen Zhao said in an April 10 video on his YouTube channel.